Listening to Students

On June 27th, a video about the shutting down of the Head Start program made news, largely because it depicts a side-by-side debate as to whether the program has been effective. The two sides? David Mulhausen, a Heritage Foundation scholar, and 10 year old Sakhia Whitehead, who went through the program herself. While Mulhausen argues that the program is ineffective and thus taking it away from 700,000 students could do no harm. Conversely, Sakhia testifies that because of Head Start, she entered kindergarten being able to read and write, while almost none of her classmates could. This advantage apparently carried throughout her education, as she has remained an honor student every year for five years. You can watch the video here.

Anecdotes don’t necessarily override facts in this case, but what seems important is that Sakhia was given the chance to defend a program that she credits with her success. When it comes to all of the reforms going on right now, it seems seldom a student voice is heard amongst all of the arguing. Policymakers and administrators may be more capable of determining the curriculum needed for future success in the workforce. But should not students be able to voice what they believe they need to have a happy, healthy, and successful education?

Sakhia’s testimony may not be enough to save the Head Start program, which has had mixed results. Which brings up another huge issue in education. With large,¬†overarching policies, it is inevitable that something will not work for a substantial portion of the students. There is no one size fits all in education. So what do we do?

What do you think? Should we be listening to students more carefully? Or go on doing what we think is best for them?